Oh Books, Must I Leave You Alone…nerve pinches and physical destruction caused by book hods

Why did I ever smoke?
I really don’t have the face or posture for it.
Who does?
I blame all those James Dean Boulevard of Broken Dreams posters.
We never looked like that.
It wasn’t just the lack of Times Square being behind us.
I had my last cigarette with Steve Lamacq at Reading Festival.
We were watching a band that were hotly tipped to be The Bangles of their generation.
They weren’t.
It’s been a few years before I lived under the delusion that chewing gum and a rigorously used disinfectant hand wipe would remove all traces of fag molecules from me.

I need to go cold turkey again.
It doesn’t matter how many wipes I use, I really can’t get rid of that smell of books. My wife always knows when I’ve been browsing.
This week has been particularly bad.
Each day, a new location.
Each location, a different charity bookshop.
Each shop containing at least one, but more likely three, books that I must buy now because, you know, I might never see it again, and it’s probably really collectable, and it contains a sentence, paragraph or chapter in it which will be vital to a book I’m writing or a show I’m doing, and that bit of information will be the tipping point from a good work to the greatest work I’ve ever done…and it will change the way I view humanity and/or the universe considerably for the better.

In an attempt to prevent my house being more book than brick and air, I promise that this week’s winner of the Book Shambles box of books prize will get at least as many books as I have bought in the last seven days.

Here is this week’s browsing diary.


I had my hands in Oobleck. I was interviewing Mark Miodownik for a radio 4 documentary on the science of Dr Seuss. Sadly, his office is very close to the Waterstones Gower St. I bushed past it, but sadly I saw a stack of Philip K Dick’s Ubik for one pound. I was tempted to buy them all and distribute them to potential novice Dickheads (the 80s and 90s term adopted by some PKD enthusiasts). Then, i imagined the joy for an impoverished fan to find Ubik for a pound, so bought just one as I needed a spare. Next to it was a comic book called LAB USA Illuminated Documents. It looked like it contained taboo histories of government duplicity, so it may have been very important in creating some new thing at some point, or feeding my paranoia when I decide to live in an attic bottling my wee.

Oh, and just after I went to the Maggie Hambling exhibition at the British Museum, I was forced to walk right by Oxfam books and I saw Philosophy of Art: Readings Ancient and Modern. As one of the spoken word shows I am working on at the moment, The Rorschach Test of Robin Ince, is all about art and my reaction to it, I needed this book.


In an act of unparalleled cruelty, just outside the shared office space I use is a bookstall. 30p hardbacks and 20p paperbacks are the suggested prices. Unfortunately, someone had just put out 23 volumes of the Time-Life World of Artists series, so I needed those, too, you know, for the show.
I’ve also not read enough, maybe any, Glenn Gould, so I put an extra few coins in the donation slot for Conversations with Glenn Gould.


To Preston, to sit on the most acrylic red seats of the our backstage at the Preston Guildhall.
I arrived early to go to the Harris Museum. I arrived so early there was time for Oxfam, The British Heart Foundation and the PDSA shop. I justify this addiction with the knowledge that the book addiction may help relieve a dog’s mange, build a wall, or unblock a valve.

Oxfam – John Berger’s Ways of Seeing (2nd spare copy, just in case) and Panorama: Philosophies of the Visible for research.

PDSA – Between Thought and Expression: Selected Lyrics of Lou Reed because it will compliment those books of Nick Cave and Leonard Cohen lyrics. Bought for balance in misery.

BHF – two comic books, God is Dead and Uber. I have no justification for this apart from the fact you seldom find good comic books in charity shops so it was for the delight of novelty and because they looked really good.


To Sheffield via Manchester
Weirdly, there was just enough time for me to pop down to the central Manchester Oxfam.

Paperback of the Every Love Story is a Ghost Story, biography of David Foster Wallace, gift for a friend.
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies by
Art for All?

Nipped into Rare and Racy, Sheffield’s superb book and music shop, that I hope is no longer under threat because no one should threaten such a fine institution.
Just the two – Camp Concentration by Thomas M Disch because I should really have read this classic by now (Susan Sontag liked it). Quantum Questions, because I didn’t notice the recommendation by Deepak Chopra. Despite the Quantum Oil salesman’s quote, it looks pretty interesting, writings by renowned physicists on some of the odder possibilities that might arose from quantum mechanics. I also need this as my other spoken word show is The Pragmatic Insanity of Robin Ince, which will look at reality and physics.

Fortunately, only one book in Sheffield’s Oxfam Books, the Everyman History of Art’s Theories of Modern Art.


And now it’s Reading, one of my favourite Oxfam bookshops.
I have trapped a nerve somewhere in a shoulder and I am noticing a marked leaning to one side.
Portfolio Book of Pop Art – 40 A4 prints of Richard Hamilton, Roy Lichenstein, Andy Warhol and that sort of thing.
The Age of Image by Stephen Apkon.
The Oxford History of Art: After Modern Art

I meant to hinder a return to Reading Oxfam by going to Reading Jail, but sadly I didn’t book in time, so…
Three Mad books _ The Organization Mad, Dave Berg looks at USA, Son of Mad.
A Sight & Sound (June 1996) because of a David Cronenberg interview.
Extra: Science Speculative Fiction Magazine no.1 for a Christopher Priest story.

And finally, Labyrinths by Borges (spare copy with different cover – La Havane by Portacarrero)
and Cambridge Companion to Beckett, so I can start to understand.

No books next week in Liverpool, Nottingham, Northampton or Portsmouth? Let’s see.

Johnny Mains and I have edited a new anthology of horror stories by comedians, Dead Funny Encore,  including Stewart Lee, James Acaster, Alice Lowe, Josie Long and special guest, Alan Moore.

Book Shambles series 4 has begun – so far it’s Alan Moore, Noel Fielding and Lisa Dwan. All 34 so far are HERE.

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4 Responses to Oh Books, Must I Leave You Alone…nerve pinches and physical destruction caused by book hods

  1. Thomas Robinson says:

    I’d recommend a visit to the installation at Reading Jail if you are there again – really worthwhile

  2. Eugene Doherty says:

    Was that scifi magazine Extra or Extro, the latter being a very short lived and deeply missed SF magazine from Belfast? It got off to a great start with fantastic authors but was shafted by late payments from the distributors

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